Clinton's folly

September 19, 1994|By Mona Charen

WHEN CHRISTOPHER Columbus first laid eyes on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), he wrote in his ship's log that it was the most beautiful spot in God's creation.

It has been downhill since. The original inhabitants of the island were wiped out, probably by the European diseases Columbus' sailors carried. (For the multiculturalists among my readership, it should also be added that the exchange of diseases went both ways. Venereal diseases native to the new world were probably carried back to Europe by Columbus' men -- where they wreaked havoc.) Haiti was next populated by enslaved Africans, who rose up to rebel against France in 1804. What followed was a series of bloody dictatorships, chaos, murder and treachery. According to Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, writing in Reader's Digest, 17 of 22 Haitian rulers of the 19th and early 20th centuries were overthrown or murdered or both.

That history lesson has been lost on President Clinton, who continues to speak of "restoring" democracy to Haiti. One election does not a democracy make: Jean-Bertrand Aristide is no democrat. His forces murder and maim their political foes just as the other side does. As liberal columnist Joe Klein wrote in Newsweek, Mr. Clinton proposes to go to war "to replace right-wing thugs with left-wing thugs."

Exactly. No American who has seen the videotape of Mr. Aristide exhorting his supporters to use "necklacing" -- filling tires with gasoline and then setting them afire on the necks of political enemies -- can be persuaded that by returning this man to power we are purifying Haiti's political culture in any way.

Moreover, it is nothing less than breathtaking that Bill Clinton and his cohort of former draft resisters now in charge of the government are willing to send American troops into harm's way for such frivolous reasons. Not to put too fine a point on it, President Clinton dodged, weaved and lied to keep himself out of danger during the Vietnam War.

That was, his defenders on the left insist, an issue of high conscience. It was not self-interest but moral repugnance at the Vietnam War that propelled young Mr. Clinton to lie to his draft board.

Now I would like someone to explain to me how a 21-year-old soldier, asked to risk his life for the political fortunes of an unstable quasi-Marxist in the poorest country in this hemisphere, is to salve his own conscience. If halting the spread of communism (one of the worst and most successful tyrannies in the history of man) was not worth the candle, how is halting the regime of Raoul Cedras?

Where is the rhetoric of yesteryear? Bill Clinton's colleagues in the anti-war movement used to say that the United States had no business meddling in the affairs of other nations. And didn't they say we always chose the wrong side? And didn't they chant that we should give peace a chance?

And even three years ago, when the United States faced the prospect of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein controlling a significant portion of the world's oil supply, wasn't it Bill Clinton's party that counseled peace?

And yet here we stand, in 1994, with the peaceniks in charge of the Pentagon, and what do they propose to do? Get our soldiers shot to make Haiti safe for its former president.

President Clinton claims that an invasion is necessary to "promote democracy" in our hemisphere.

President Clinton says that U.S. credibility is at stake. He's confused. His own credibility is at stake -- and for good reason. He is dishonest, and he changes course like a boomerang.

There is not a particle of U.S. national interest at stake in Haiti.

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.

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